OTTAWA — Police investigators watched and tearfully celebrated Wednesday as a former RCMP counter-terrorism officer who tortured and starved his son in the basement of his family’s suburban Ottawa home was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The sentence marked the end of what Justice Robert Maranger called a “horrific” case involving “the worst kind of abuse” inflicted on a boy who was 11 years old when he was found by a neighbour after having escaped his captivity in February 2013.
The man, who cannot be identified under a court order protecting his son’s identity, was convicted in November of two counts of aggravated assault, one each of sexual assault causing bodily harm, unlawful confinement, assault and failing to provide the necessaries of life, and a range of firearms offences.
“What happened to the victim was outrageous,” Maranger said just prior to handing down the sentence.
After time already served, the 45-year-old faces 13 years and two months in prison. But he could be paroled sooner.
In one final message to his father, the boy issued a stinging condemnation. He said he hoped the man who was supposed to be his caregiver finally realized the pain that he caused.
The boy also said he now feels love in his life.
“He always used to tell me that two and two equals four,” the boy said of his father in a written statement read aloud in court.
“But if you take all the multiples of four, that still wouldn’t equal all the people that now care for me and are in my life,” he said.
“If one day you stop thinking about yourself, you may realize how wrong what you did was.”
During his sentencing hearing in February, the man apologized for being “a monster” to his son.
But Maranger told court he didn’t believe the former police officer had showed any true remorse. The judge also suggested the sentence could have been harsher had it not been for the testimony of expert witnesses who said the man suffered from post-traumatic stress, along with severe depression.
Maranger said he gave “moderate weight” to the man’s mental health issues in rendering his decision.
For investigators who first encountered the boy lying in a hospital bed, nearly starved, the abuse he suffered was difficult to comprehend, especially at the hands of a fellow police officer, they said.
“When we walked in (to the hospital) and we spoke with the child, as I left I just couldn’t fathom a parent and I couldn’t fathom one of us, doing something like that,” Ottawa Police Det. Johanne Marelic said outside the courthouse as she wiped away tears.
“That will always remain with me.”
But even though the case played on her emotions, in the end Marelic said she was glad she got to know the boy.
“The one positive thing is that I now have a new little friend in my life, with my family, and we are very lucky to have known him because he is a remarkable little man,” she said.
Crown prosecutors had argued the man should receive a cumulative 23 years behind bars, less time served, for inflicting horrific abuse on his son, but said Wednesday they were satisfied with the judge’s ruling.
Court was told the boy’s injuries were of the worst magnitude, including burns to his genitals from a barbecue lighter and scars around his ankles left by shackles.
Defence lawyer Robert Carew had argued the father should serve between five and seven years, noting several recent cases involving similar offences had resulted in sentences within that range. As he left the courtroom, Carew called the 15-year sentence “too long.”
The man’s wife, the boy’s adoptive mother, was found guilty of assault with a weapon and failing to provide the necessaries of life and was given a three-year sentence. But Maranger said the father deserved a stiffer sentence for his role in the abuse, adding that the actions of both parents were “worlds apart.”
A group known as Bikers Against Child Abuse, which had members sitting in court throughout the proceedings, dismissed the sentence as insufficient.
“This child will now suffer for the rest of his life, where the accused is probably going to serve eight years of a 15-year sentence,” said the president of the group’s Canadian chapter, who identified himself as “Titan.”
“The laws in Canada have to change drastically and this is a perfect example of why.”